What are benefits?

Benefits are payments from the government for people on low incomes, or that meet specific needs.

They can include the following;

  • Income related benefits
  • Tax credits
  • Contribution-based benefits
  • Council Tax Reduction
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Universal Credit

They fall into two categories: ‘means-tested’ and ‘non-means-tested’ benefits.

Means-tested benefits are determined based on your income, savings and other assets you have. Whereas non-means-tested benefits don’t take into account your income or the money you have but are determined by your situation. For example if you lose your job or are unable to work because of illness, or you are not able to work because you are caring for someone else.

Non-means-tested benefits fall into three categories: contributory benefits, statutory benefits and non-contributory benefits. More details of these here.

Who can claim benefits?

They are typically available if;

  • You’re out of work
  • You have a low income (you struggle financially to live)
  • You’ve got children
  • You’re ill or disabled
  • You care for someone who is ill or disabled

If you’re currently out of work, take a look at our jobs page for tips on how to spruce up your CV to help.

How do I see whether I qualify for benefits?

There are a number of online calculators you can use to determine whether you would qualify for benefits. Click here for the Policy in Practise benefits calculator, it’s government approved.

Organisations you can contact:

How do you receive benefits?

Straight into your bank account typically. If you have Council Tax Support, it will be taken straight off your bill, similarly to Housing Benefit which may sometimes go straight to your landlord.

It’s also possible to nominate someone to receive the payment on your behalf, if needed.

Depending on the benefit you are claiming, payments are paid weekly, every four weeks or monthly.

Benefits for non-UK residents:

Benefits for non-UK residents depend on your immigration status, and if you are looking for employment.

What to know if you are a non-UK residents

  • If you are not working, it’s unlikely you’ll be entitled to income-related benefits
  • An EEA national is someone from the European Economic Area). List of countries here.
  • To make a claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance you must be living in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Republic of Ireland for 3 months immediately before your claim
  • EEA jobseekers cannot claim Housing Benefits
  • If you are a non-EEA national, you generally won’t be able to claim any benefits at all
  • If you are a refugee, you can apply for benefits in the same way UK nationals can

For more information on what asylum seekers can claim here.

For more information on benefits that apply to non-UK residents look here.